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The Revd Dr Daniel Hugh Matthews: 1936-2020

'The former Principal of South Wales Baptist College was an outstanding scholar - and a gracious, kind, compassionate man'

Hugh MatthewsIt is with the greatest sadness that we share with you the news that the Revd Dr Daniel Hugh Matthews, former Principal of South Wales Baptist College, has passed away, write Rosa Hunt and Ed Kaneen. Tributes to Hugh have been flooding in, and it is a privilege to share some of them with you here.

The Revd Denzil John is the longest standing trustee of the College. He has known Hugh for many years, and he writes:

On Friday, 27 November, the Rev Dr. D. Hugh Matthews died at his home in the company of his two sons Gethin and Tegid. He had faced a major battle with cancer for many years, and needed surgical treatment in different hospitals which he faced bravely with prayerful resolve. His beloved wife Verina had passed away in 2012, which was a difficult period for him as they had known each other since their youth.

Hugh was born in the Treboeth community to the north of Swansea and came to faith under the ministries of both the Rev Emrys Davies and the Rev W.H.Rowlands, at Caersalem Newydd Baptist Church.  He felt the hand of God on his heart and that he was called to the Christian ministry.   

He received his theological training in Bangor Baptist College and at the University of Wales, Bangor. He graduated as M.A., B.D. and later completed his M.Phil research degree. Rather than pursue his doctorate then, he felt led to accept the call from the Lampeter group of churches, in Cardiganshire, and fulfilled a valued ministry there. Such was the impression he made, that when the the Revd Walter P. John died, the membership were led to call Hugh Matthews to be his successor at East Castle St, London.

He made a strong impression, not only on the members of the church, but on many Baptist churches in London. When a post became vacant at the Baptist College he was persuaded to apply and in 1985 he was appointed to the post of tutor, following the retirement of the Revd Dr. Dafydd G Davies. In 1992, when the Revd Dr Neville Clark retired, he was appointed to the post of Principal, and in 2001 he himself retired from that role. He continued to mentor students, both in a formal and voluntary role.  

He and his wife had become members in Tabernacl, Welsh Baptist Church, when he came to Cardiff, and they blended well with the membership of the church. He contributed to every aspect of church life, especially with the Bible Groups, both adult and youth. He never sought to be in the limelight and was always to be found in the rear seat of the church. He will be remembered as a preacher who developed his own unique and effective style of preaching. He would present an evangelical message on Biblical texts and was always comfortable in engaging with folk of various theological persuasion. He published many books, especially meditative material based on the New Testament, such as his commentary on the epistle to the Hebrews and the Book of Revelation.

Looking forward to being in the presence of Jesus excited him as did the belief that he would once again be alongside his soul-mate Verina. May he rest in peace as we give thanks for the grace of God revealed in his life.   

Hugh was an outstanding scholar. As well as degrees in Welsh, New Testament Greek and Christian doctrine, a Masters in the history of Baptist Ministry and an MPhil from Spurgeon's, he was also Dean of Theology at Cardiff University and was awarded an honorary doctorate in Divinity by Campbell University, North Carolina in May 2000. 

But our lasting memory of Hugh will be of a gracious, kind, compassionate man who always had a smile on his face and made you feel at home. The Revd Dr Karen Smith was a former colleague of Hugh's at the College, and she writes: 

I will always remember Hugh as a kind and gracious Christian friend with a heart for Wales. He was respected by University colleagues and worked tirelessly to build relationships between the College, the University, and with churches in Wales.

He was caring, compassionate and his door was always open to students and staff. He always had time for people and he was never short of a story to tell, which would bring a smile or make me stop and think! I give thanks to God for his life and witness, and I count it a privilege that I was able to work alongside him during the years that he was Principal of the College.

Hugh was equally appreciated by the students. A former student of his, Paula Hughes, writes that Hugh was warm and kind, wholly approachable, a man at ease in any company and who put students at their ease. He valued your ideas even if they didn't seem smart to you. 

Another former student who has since himself gone on to be a tutor at South Wales Baptist College, the Revd Dr Craig Gardiner, writes that Hugh was gentle, congenial committed, pastoral, and a walking testimony to someone who loved God and the woman who held his heart. He was one of the first people I knew who was clearly and passionately Welsh with no apology but no militancy either. He made me want to stay.

Hugh has been a support and an encouragement to us during our brief time as Co-Principals, making every effort to attend College events even when he was very unwell. We shall miss his courteous, gentle manner and his lovely smile very much indeed. We know that you will join us in sending our heartfelt condolences to Hugh's sons Tegid and Gethin, and their families.

Rosa Hunt and Ed Kaneen, Co-Principals, South Wales Baptist College 

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